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Intent, Motive, and the R.A.V. Decision

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Ethics Volume: 11 Issue: 2 Dated: Summer/Fall 1992 Pages: 42-46
Martin B. Margulies
Date Published
5 pages
This article examines the legal differences between intent and motive, and the relevance of these data to the "R.A.V." decision.
The article makes three points: (1) the criminal law's long-standing distinction between intent and motive is quite clear, as legal principles go; (2) in its application to hate crimes, the distinction is eminently serviceable, it supplies the key to drafting "enhancement" statutes that will work effectively, and will satisfy the requirements of the majority opinion in "R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, MN;" and (3) that opinion is very much in the mainstream of the Court's First Amendment jurisprudence, and is not "transparently wrong," "mischievous," or "folly," as the concurring justices assert. Rather, the article describes the opinion as "a smashing triumph for First Amendment values." The guiding principle in the "R.A.V." decision was that the government may not establish favored orthodoxies even when dealing with unprotected activity. The article observes that a bias statute that looks to intent is far better tailored to the evil it seeks to erase. Motive-oriented statutes are "grotesquely underinclusive." Notes


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